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Medical Offices of Manhattan
What Is Fasted Cardio (and Can It Help Me Lose Weight Faster)?

Denise Pate, doctor of internal medicine at Medical Offices of Manhattan, to learn more about it—including whether fasted cardio is actually safe.

What are the benefits of fasted cardio? “Fasted cardio is exercise done in a fasted state, in which your body is no longer processing or digesting food. Benefits include increased lipolysis, fat oxidation and decreased insulin levels. Increased lipolysis is when the body breaks down fatty cells to use them as energy, and fat oxidation is when the body burns the energy from fat cells when the body’s glycogen (the body’s storage form of energy) is low. When the body is resting, especially during sleep, blood insulin levels begin to drop; this means the body turns to using fat as energy instead of carbohydrates. These benefits all stem from increased body fat loss.”

So, is fasted cardio safe? “Yes, if it’s done carefully. Exercising or doing cardio during a fasted state can cause low blood sugar, which could lead to feelings of lightheadedness or lethargy. Because our body derives energy from a different source when we do fasted cardio, this energy can come from muscle, hence some may experience muscle loss, especially in the elderly. If you have other metabolic diseases or health concerns such as diabetes, it is best to contact your doctor prior to doing fasted cardio to prevent low blood sugar.”

So it’s not harmful to work out on an empty stomach? “While it’s not necessarily harmful to the body, there are pros and cons. One pro: You can lose up to more than 20 percent body fat when you exercise on an empty stomach. The con of working out on an empty stomach is that your body eventually kicks into ‘survival mode,’ where it will eventually burn fewer calories as your body will try to prevent too much fat from being burned; this can make it more difficult to lose weight. You may also feel ill or lacking in energy after.”

Can habitual fasted cardio lead to any health conditions? “If you’re generally in good health, fasted cardio may not be an issue. However if you have a health condition, like diabetes, contact your doctor before trying it out.”

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